On the Death of those in the Prime of Life

Death is great and we but objects of its laughter
When we think ourselves in the prime of life, it dares to cry out among us
–Rainer Maria Rilke

Death loves to sneak up on those in the prime of life. Today, that is Bassem Sabry. Not long ago, it was Samer Soliman, Professor of Political Economy at the American University in Cairo, and Hossam Tammam, a researcher on religion and politics. Death has deprived them of their dreams: a better society and a tolerant political system, a record that both discussed and abided by morality and ideas, and a new, serious kind of research article. It has taken away their tools: their powers of seeing, observing, recording, analyzing, clashing with reality, calling for rights and freedoms, revising, thinking, and re-thinking. It has silenced them, and stilled those of us who knew them and followed them.

Death does not ask for permission, not from those who speak in absolute truths, nor from those who doubt truth in the first place, not even from those whose mind and consciousness have learned to reject dogma, to always search for truth, and to accept differences. Death always hurts, but it bleeds communities dry when it sneaks up on them in times of crisis, disunity, retrogression, mass hysteria, and mental suicide. When, in the absence of consensus and civil peace, it takes the few minds clinging to the life raft of human morality amidst the flood of hatred, conflict, and the contradictions of those who speak in absolutes and those who seek to take over the government and the revolution; when it takes those who gave us answers – or at least the beginnings of answers – to that ever-recurring human question: Now what? Death always hurts, but it shakes the earth beneath our feet when it takes those whose consciences fought to build bridges across difference, who kept a clear and respectful distance from the dissimulation and special interests of the greedy, and who fought for the victory of morality; when it carves their names on gravestones. Death always hurts, but it racks our consciousness when it dares to call on men like Basem Sabry, Samer Soliman, and Hossam Tammam. Those men were in the prime of their lives. They were working to save others from the flood of hatred, putting their own lots in with the rest, and awaiting the flood of rebirth and renewal.

Now what? Death sneaks up on us and leaves no survivors on the ancient earth. Death sneaks up on us and does not dare to choose those grown weary by carrying the burden of humanity, to choose those who refuse to carry that burden, or those who profit from it. Death sneaks up on us as life stands at our heels, mobilized and on alert, ready to make yet another sacrifice to the gods so that the flood never comes. It is a sacrifice of the ruins of our dreams and the dreams of those rare individuals with tools the rest of us do not posses. It is a deceptive and momentary silence, a silent reverence for eternal death, which replaces the clamor of those who speak in absolutes, who hate humanity, and who profit from mass hysteria, fear, constraining the mind and the conscience, and oppressing thought and freedom. It is a sacrifice that reveals to those with the foresight of Bassem Sabry, Samer Soliman, and Hossam Tammam that the only answer to that recurrent human question is that the flood is coming. It is just a matter of time.

Amr Hamzawy joined the Department of Public Policy and Administration at the American University in Cairo in 2011, where he continues to serve today. He is a former Member of Parliament, former member of the National Salvation Front, and founder of the Freedom Egypt Party. 

Image: (Photo: Wikimedia)